Sometime around 166 million years ago, a giant flying reptile with long, dagger-like teeth and claws resembling jousting poles once soared over Britain and their remains have been rediscovered by PhD researcher Michael O’Sullivan.
Publishing his work in Acta Palaeontologica Polonica, O’Sullivan analyzed more than 200 fossils of flying reptiles collected over the last 200 years from Stonesfield Slate, one of the most fossil-rich areas in the World. Given the extent of fossils recovered from this location, O’Sullivan writes that his newly described species was likely overlooked at the time of collection. But a closer examination of the fragments of pterosaurs revealed the flying reptile was massive for its time, well-armed, and whose assemblage consisted of at least five taxa representing three families.
"Klobiodon has been known to us for centuries, archived in a museum drawer and seen by dozens or hundreds of scientists, but its significance has been overlooked because it's been confused with another species since the 1800s,” said O’Sullivan in a statement.
Now named Klobiodon rochei after the comic book artist Nick Roche, the “cage tooth” dinosaur is believed to have had a wingspan of about 2 meters (6.6 feet) – massive for any pterosaur at the time – and fangs measuring up to 25 millimeters (1 inch) long.
"Its large fangs would have meshed together to form a toothy cage, from which little could escape once Klobiodon had gotten a hold of it,” said O’Sullivan. Its unique dental profile distinguishes it from other pterosaurs, but researchers were only able to compile a profile of its jaw from the lower half. However, they believe the coastal flying reptilian likely caught fish and squid with its massive teeth and then swallowed them whole sort of like a prehistoric pelican.
Klobiodon would have lived along with other, more well-known dinosaurs such as the first dinosaur ever named, the Megalosaurus. Its “rediscovery” tells us more about a time in UK Middle Jurassic when rising sea levels and warming temperatures turned the region into an area of large, tropical islands.
“The Stonesfield pterosaurs are rarely pretty or spectacular, but they capture a time in flying reptile evolution which is poorly represented globally. They have an important role to play in not only understanding the UK’s natural history but help us understand the bigger global picture as well,” explained O’Sullivan.